Hosts for the annual Emmy Awards ceremonies throughout the 21st Century have almost always been comedians. For the most part, they bring just the right tone of roasting the nominees and celebrating the previous TV season. With a four-way rotation of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, the host selection also typically comes from that network’s stable of talent. Let’s take a tour of the past two decades in our photo gallery below of all the hosts, good and bad. Note that there were no hosts for Fox’s ceremonies in 2019 and 2003. Originally published August 2018.
Kenan Thompson (2022)
Live from Los Angeles … it’s Kenan Thompson! The “Saturday Night Live” star’s first year as Emmys host came four years after Michael Che and Colin Jost co-hosted the live event for NBC in 2018. Thompson first joined the “SNL” family in 2003; he stayed at the show for 19 years (and counting), breaking the record for the longest-serving cast member.
Cedric the Entertainer (2021)
While the star of CBS’s “The Neighborhood” had never emceed TV’s biggest night before 2021, he did know a thing or two about hosting awards shows as he served as ringleader of the 2014 Critics Choice TV Awards, the 2012 and 2011 Soul Train Awards, the 2005 American Music Awards, the 2003 NAACP Image Awards and the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, to name just a handful.
Jimmy Kimmel (2020, 2016, 2012)
Kimmel’s first hosting gig was rough around the edges — his big prank to have viewers tweet that Tracy Morgan passed out on stage fell flat. But he drastically improved for his second stint, going after an MIA Maggie Smith and getting taunted by his nemesis Matt Damon, a gag that never gets old. For his third time at bat in 2020, Kimmel presided over a mostly virtual ceremony due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
No Host (2019, 2003)
In 2019 Fox copied the Oscars’ trend of having no emcee for their annual ceremony. In 2003 the same network opted not to have a host and instead called on 11 presenters – Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Garrett, Darrell Hammond, George Lopez, Conan O’Brien, Bernie Mac, Dennis Miller, Garry Shandling, Martin Short, Jon Stewart and Wanda Sykes — to oversee segments of the show.
Michael Che and Colin Jost (2018)
“Saturday Night Live” stars and “Weekend Update” anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che hosted the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, marking the first time a duo presided over the ceremony since Jenna Elfman and David Hyde Pierce in 1999. That was last century!
Stephen Colbert (2017)
The “Late Show” host emceed the first Emmys under the Trump administration and set the tone with his opening number and monologue skewering the Emmy-hungry POTUS. “Why didn’t you give him an Emmy?” he asked the audience. “I’ll tell you this: If he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn’t have run for president. So, in a way, this is all your fault.” And then, of course, there was his polarizing stunt: bringing out Sean Spicer.
Andy Samberg (2015)
The “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star’s opener revealed he’s watched every show – yes, even “Castle” – and that there are a whole lotta “Wives” on TV. His best gag, though, was his “Mad Men” spoof with one helluva twist ending.
Seth Meyers (2014)
The Emmys were held on a Monday this year, so Meyers told a lot of jokes about that. He also gets credit for helping Billy Eichner’s star rise, producing a riotous Emmy-focused “Billy on the Street” segment. Eichner: “Sir, Tatiana Maslany was snubbed.” Old man: “Who cares?”
Neil Patrick Harris (2013, 2009)
NPH’s two stints were on opposite ends of his “Neil Patrick Harris Hosts Everything” run. His first go-around was fresh and exciting, except for when the “How I Met Your Mother” star lost Best Comedy Supporting Actor in an upset to Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”). By 2013, we all probably had NPH hosting fatigue (he was still 18 months away from hosting the Oscars with that interminable box stunt). Plus, this ceremony was saddled by five individual eulogy presentations on top of the In Memoriam segment, which led to this burn from “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan in his Best Comedy Series speech: “This may be the saddest Emmys of all time, but we could not be happier.”
Jane Lynch (2011)
The “Glee” star did her own song-and-dance opener and had a bunch of taped segments. But she peaked with this introduction: “A lot of people are very curious why I’m a lesbian. Ladies and gentlemen, the cast of ‘Entourage.’”
Jimmy Fallon (2010)
Fallon hands down gave us the best opener of any host this century. The star-studded (Tina Fey! Betty White!) “Glee”-inspired number was exuberant, infectious fun that everyone tried to duplicate thereafter.
Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst and Ryan Seacrest (2008)
Attempting to capitalize on the new Best Reality Host category, producers recruited the five nominees to preside over the show, which everyone now openly admits was a huge mistake. This was rough and awkward, made even worse by the drawn-out presentation of their own category with Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel spoke for all of us when he said, “Haven’t they been sufficient, everybody?”
Ryan Seacrest (2007)
We all know why Fox asked the “American Idol” host to emcee, but Seacrest acknowledged right off the bat that he can’t tell jokes or sing and dance, so he mostly just moved the show along. This was also the year the Emmys held the show in a round, which hasn’t been done since.
Conan O’Brien (2006, 2002)
Coco put in two solid solo stints with killer opening bits both times. The first featured the Osbournes (it was 2002, guys) and him flirting with Jennifer Aniston to Brad Pitt’s disapproval. The second found him hilariously running through various TV shows, which included a scorcher of a joke about defending drama series champ “Lost”’s snub that year.
Ellen DeGeneres (2005, 2001)
DeGeneres’ inaugural hosting gig is arguably the most memorable one this century. The ceremony was twice postponed due to 9/11 and then the war in Afghanistan, and DeGeneres had the unenviable task of telling us it’s OK to give out gold statues while the world is on fire. But she struck the perfect tone throughout the night. Best line: “What would upset the Taliban more than a gay woman wearing a suit in front of a room full of Jews?” Four years later, she hosted shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. That ceremony is now known as the one where Donald Trump and Megan Mullally sang the “Green Acres” theme.
Garry Shandling (2004, 2000)
The late comedian presided over the Emmys twice this century. His first stint parodied “Survivor,” which had premiered that summer, with a tribal council bit with late-night hosts, and his second featured a “Larry Sanders Show” reunion with Jeffrey Tambor, who couldn’t leave the stage without uttering his catchphrase, “Hey now.”